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An anonymous reader writes: "Last week, the Ars Technica ran an article listing their staff's least favorite Star Trek: the Next Generation episodes. They hit a few of the predictable ones, like Angel One — wherein Riker's chest hair takes center stage — and Up the Long Ladder — featuring space-Irish. But a surprising suggestion came from Peter Bright, who denounced Darmok, a fan favorite. (You remember: 'Darmok and Jalad, at Tanagra.') Now, Ars's Lee Hutchinson has (jokingly) taken Bright to task, showing how IMDB ratings mark Darmok (5x02) as one of the best episodes of season 5, and among the strongest in the series. He also points out a trend in some of the bad episodes they didn't pick: 'According to the data, the worst episode of TNG by a significant margin is the season 2 finale Shades of Gray, a clipshow episode famously hobbled by the 1988 Writers Guild of America strike. We also managed to not pick season 6's Man of the People (the one where Troi falls in love with a brain vampire and gets really old) or season 4's The Loss (the one where Troi loses her empathic abilities and gets really whiny) or season 2's The Child (the one where Troi has dream sex with a space anomaly and gets really pregnant).' What are your picks for best and worst TNG episode?"
mendax sends this excerpt from a New York Times op-ed:
"like Napster in the late 1990s, [torrent-streaming app Popcorn Time] offered a glimpse of what seemed like the future, a model for how painless it should be to stream movies and TV shows online. The app also highlighted something we've all felt when settling in for a night with today’s popular streaming services, whether Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, Hulu, or Google or Microsoft’s media stores: They just aren't good enough. ... In the music business, Napster’s vision eventually became a reality. Today, with services like Spotify and Rdio, you can pay a monthly fee to listen to whatever you want, whenever you want. But in the movie and TV business, such a glorious future isn't in the offing anytime soon.
According to industry experts, some of whom declined to be quoted on the record because of the sensitivities of the nexus of media deals involved, we aren’t anywhere close to getting a service that allows customers to pay a single monthly fee for access to a wide range of top-notch movies and TV shows.Instead of a single comprehensive service, the future of digital TV and movies is destined to be fragmented across several services, at least for the next few years. We’ll all face a complex decision tree when choosing what to watch, and we’ll have to settle for something less than ideal."
Slashdot contributor Bennett Haselton writes: "Why do Netflix and a few other companies keep the DVD format alive, when streaming is more convenient for almost all users? The answer is not obvious, but my best theory is that it has to do with what economists call price discrimination. Netflix is still the cheapest legal way to watch a dozen recent releases every month — but only if you're willing to put up with those clunky DVDs." Read on for the rest of Bennett's thoughts.
An anonymous reader writes: "We may not have Saurian Brandy or Romulan Ale, but we'll soon have Klingon Beer. Tin Man Brewing Company in Evansville, Indiana has gotten the OK from CBS to create 'Klingon Warnog,' a Dunkelweizen with 'a modern aroma [of] predominantly mild banana and clove.' It will have an ABV of 5.5%. The Klingon beer will apparently join Vulcan Ale in the Federation of Beer. I wonder what their Prime Directive is."
KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "The recent development of vast databases that link words to the emotions they conjure up is changing the way researchers study text. Sentiment analysis, for example, is increasingly used to gauge the mood of society on topics ranging from politics to movies. Now researchers have used the same technique to measure the "emotional temperature" throughout a novel and then to automatically compose music that reflects the content. The key advance in this work is the development of rules that map the emotional changes into musical qualities such as tempo, key pitch and so on. The team has fed a number of well known books through the algorithm, which they call TransProse. These include lighter texts such as Peter Pan and much darker novels such as The Road and Heart of Darkness. And the music isn't bad (to my untrained ear). The teams say the new algorithm could lead to audio-visual e-books that generate music that reflects the mood on open pages. And it may even be possible to use the algorithm in reverse to recommend known songs that reflect the mood in a book."
An anonymous reader writes "Whether he's debating creationists, taking selfies with President Obama, or 'Dancing with the Stars,' Bill Nye the Science Guy is no stranger to the spotlight. But what about the man behind the public persona? How did Bill Nye become the Science Guy?(video) Bill Nye has made his debut on the PBS series, The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers, to reveal the story of how he rose from being a young comedian from Seattle to becoming a science icon. In his profile, Bill Nye talks about his early days impersonating Steve Martin, why bow-ties are important in the lab (and with the ladies), and how Carl Sagan's advice helped to shape his hit television show."
cartechboy (2660665) writes "Two University of Southern California grads were looking to start a digital content company so they decided to roll the dice and create a home-made (but incredibly professional looking) television commercial for Tesla — just to see if they could get some attention for it. Well, apparently, mission accomplished. R.J. Collins and James Khabushani took $1,500 and created a 60-second Tesla 'faux-mercial' dubbed 'Modern Spaceship' that is well, pretty good. Elon Musk noticed, tweeted it and has helped the thing go viral."
J. Michael Straczynski has written Thor, World War Z, and Changeling among many other films. He created Babylon 5 and has worked on numerous comic book titles including Superman and The Amazing Spider-Man. Most recently, he has teamed up with the Wachowskis for an original Netflix sci-fi series, Sense8 . He's agreed to take a break from his busy schedule in order to answer any questions you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
ConfusedVorlon writes with word that Warner Bros backed out on their promise of digital downloads for backers of the Veronica Mars film "Backers were promised 'You will receive a digital version of the movie within a few days of the movie's theatrical debut.' Warner Bros are providing a non-downloadable ultra-violet coupon (although Veronica Mars is available for download through other stores). The download is already available on the Pirate Bay. The download is even available on commercial stores. The users have already passed over their $35+. But rather than meet the demand for a DRM-free download, Warner Bros would prefer to return the original pledge to backers who complain.
What does this tell us about how movie studios view the world? There can't be a better indication of willingness to pay than 'they have already paid' — are these the pirates WB fears?"
destinyland writes "Hoping to inspire life-extending medical research, science fiction author Gennady Stolyarov has launched a campaign to give away 1,000 free copies of his transhumanist picture book for children, Death is Wrong. 'My greatest fear about the future is not of technology running out of control or posing existential risks to humankind,' he explains. 'Rather, my greatest fear is that, in the year 2045, I will be...wondering, "What happened to that Singularity we were promised by now...?"' Along with recent scientific discoveries, the book tells its young readers about long-lived plants and animals '"that point the way toward lengthening lifespans in humans,' in an attempt to avoid a future where children 'would pay no more attention to technological progress and life-extension possibilities than their predecessors did.'"
An anonymous reader writes "A piece of software called 'Popcorn Time' drew a lot of attention last week for encapsulating movie torrents within a slick, stream-based UI that made watching pirated films as easy as firing up Netflix. The app ran into trouble a few days ago when it was pulled from its hosting provider, Mega, and now Popcorn Time's creators say they're shutting it down altogether. They say it was mainly an experiment: 'Piracy is not a people problem. It's a service problem. A problem created by an industry that portrays innovation as a threat to their antique recipe to collect value. It seems to everyone that they just don't care. But people do. We've shown that people will risk fines, lawsuits and whatever consequences that may come just to be able to watch a recent movie in slippers. Just to get the kind of experience they deserve.' However, the software itself isn't a complete loss — the project is being picked up by the founder of a torrent site, and he says development will continue."
New submitter Paul J Heald writes "The vast majority of books and songs from the 20th Century are out-of-print. New data show music publishers doing an admirable job of digitizing older content, but book publishers fail miserably at putting old works in eBook form. I've done some research in an attempt to explain why: 'Music publishers can proceed with the digitization of their back catalog without competing to re-sign authors or hiring lawyers to renegotiate and write new contracts. Research has revealed no cases holding that music publishers must renegotiate in order to digitize their vinyl back catalogs. The situation for book publishers is substantially the opposite. In the landmark case of Random House v. Rosetta Books, the Second Circuit held that Random House had to renegotiate deals with its authors in order to publish their hard copy books in eBook format. ... Another advantage that the music industry may have is the lower cost of digitization. A vinyl album or audio master tape can be converted directly to a consumable digital form and be made available almost immediately. A book, on the other hand, can be scanned quite easily, but in order to be marketed as a professional-looking eBook (as opposed to a low quality, camera-like image of the original book), the scanned text needs to be manipulated with word processing software to reset the fonts and improve the appearance of the text.'"
Jonathan Coulton's song Code Monkey became an anthem for many programmers (not just ones with managers named Rob) and his success is proof that you really can become an internet rock star. Since we last talked, Coulton has became the house musician for the NPR show Ask Me Another and had one of his songs copied without permission, credit, or thanks by the show Glee, much to his chagrin. Jonathan has agreed to answer all your questions about music, internet stardom, and robots. Normal Slashdot interview rules apply.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Jose Pagliery reports at CNN that the 68-year-old rock star unveiled his startup, Pono, at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas raising $1.4 million in a single day. Young has developed a portable music player that stores high-resolution recordings and promises to deliver all the delicate details that get chopped out of modern-day formats, like MP3s and CDs. 'Pono' is Hawaiian for righteous. 'What righteous means to our founder Neil Young is honoring the artist's intention, and the soul of music. That's why he's been on a quest, for a few years now, to revive the magic that has been squeezed out of digital music.' With 128 GB of space, the PonoPlayer can carry about 3,200 tracks of high-resolution recordings while an MP3 player of the same size can hold maybe 10 times that many songs. Young says the MP3 files we're all listening to actually are pretty poor from an audio-quality standpoint and only contains about five percent of the audio from an original recording. But isn't FLAC already lossless? What makes Pono better?"
rjmarvin writes "We've all seen the code displayed in hacking scenes from movies and TV, but now a new industry is growing around custom-building realistic software and dummy code. Twisted Media, a Chicago-based design team, started doing fake computer graphics back in 2007 for the TNT show Leverage, and is now working on three prime-time shows on top of films like Gravity and the upcoming Divergent. They design and create realistic interfaces and codebases for futuristic software. British computer scientist John Graham-Cumming has drawn attention to entertainment background code by explaining what the displayed code actually does on his blog, but now that the public is more aware, studios are paying for fake code that's actually convincing."
sciencehabit writes "Researchers have found that between 1 and 3% of people don't like music of any kind. These people aren't tone deaf or incapable of grasping the emotional meaning of a song—their brains simply didn’t find listening to music rewarding. While some psychiatric disorders are associated with the loss of the ability to feel pleasure, called anhedonia, the music-haters represent the first evidence for not feeling pleasure from only one specific pleasing stimulant, a condition that has been dubbed music-specific anhedonia. Curious where you fall on the music reward spectrum? The researchers have an online quiz." I know I actively prefer silence to most music, but what I like, I like intensely. Update: 03/06 21:48 GMT by T : Sorry for the garbled submission; now fixed.
v3rgEz writes "TV streaming service Aereo expected broadcasters would put up a fight. The startup may not have seen the Justice Department as a threat, however. The Justice Department has now weighed in, saying in a filing that it's siding with major broadcasters who accuse Aereo of stealing TV content. In its filing, the Justice Department noted it doesn't believe a win for broadcasters would dismantle the precedent that created the cloud computing industry, as Aereo has previously claimed. The case is expected to go before the Supreme Court in late April."
A while ago you had a chance to ask composer George Sanger about making music and sound effects for games, television, and film. Below you'll find "The Fat Man's" answers to those questions.
just_another_sean writes "An Australian record label that threatened to sue one of the world's most famous copyright attorneys for infringement has reached a settlement with him. The settlement includes an admission that Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard Law School professor, had the right to use a song by the band Phoenix. From the article: 'In a statement, Liberation Music admitted Lessig's use of the song was protected by fair use — a legal doctrine that allows copyrighted material to be used for education, satire and a few other exceptions. Liberation Music says it will also pay Lessig for the harm it caused. The amount is confidential under the terms of the agreement, but it will be dedicated to supporting work by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital civil rights group, to work on causes that were important to Lessig's friend Aaron Swartz, a technologist and activist who committed suicide last year.'"
New submitter DigitalParc writes "RadioShack recently launched a promotion for 6 months of free Netflix service with the purchase of a laptop, tablet, or phone. This ended up being a fantastic deal, until the shoddy redemption site they were using for the Netflix code redemption was exploited and many of the codes were stolen. 'Users on slickdeals, a deal-finding and sometimes deal-exploiting website, found that the URL of the redemption website could be changed upon trying to enter a code, resulting in a valid Netflix subscription code being generated. Within hours, many of Netflix codes that were allocated to this promotion were stolen and some were redeemed or put up for sale on eBay.'"
An anonymous reader writes in with new developments in a two-year-old spat between YouTube and GEMA (a German music royalty collection foundation). After the courts ordered YouTube to implement tools to block videos that contained music GEMA licenses, it seems that telling users why content was blocked isn't making GEMA happy. From the article: "GEMA applied for an injunction to force YouTube to change the messages, claiming that they misrepresent the situation and damage GEMA’s reputation. YouTube alone is responsible for blocking the videos, claiming otherwise is simply false, GEMA argued. ... Yesterday the District Court of Munich agreed with the music group and issued an injunction to force YouTube to comply, stating that the notices 'denigrate' GEMA with a 'totally distorted representation of the legal dispute between the parties.' Changing the message to state that videos are not available due to a lack of a licensing agreement between YouTube and GEMA would be more appropriate, the Court said." The messages currently reads, "Unfortunately, this video is not available in Germany because it may contain music for which GEMA has not granted the respective music rights." Seems pretty neutral. Non-compliance with the order could result in fines of €250,000 per infraction.
RogueyWon writes "South Park has long been vocal in its opposition to media censorship from any source, launching scathing attacks on everything from 'think of the children' moral crusades to the censorship of religious imagery. In a curious twist, therefore, Ubisoft, the publisher of the upcoming video game South Park: The Stick of Truth, has decided to censor certain scenes from the game's Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 versions from release in Europe, Australia, the Middle East and Africa. American versions, as well as the European PC release, so far appear to have escaped the censor's pen."
samzenpus writes "Writer and comedian Harold Ramis has passed away at 69. Ramis had a hand in many classic comedies but is especially loved for playing the ghost-hunting Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters. 'His creativity, compassion, intelligence, humor and spirit will be missed by all who knew and loved him,' said his family in a statement."
We've mentioned several times the tension between giant streaming sources (especially Netflix), and ISPs (especially Comcast, especially given that it may merge with Time-Warner). Now, Marketwatch reports that Netflix has agreed to pay Comcast (amount undisclosed) for continued smooth access to Comcast's network customers, "a landmark agreement that could set a precedent for Netflix's dealings with other broadband providers, people familiar with the situation said." From the article: "In exchange for payment, Netflix will get direct access to Comcast's broadband network, the people said. The multiyear deal comes just 10 days after Comcast agreed to buy Time Warner Cable TWC -0.79% Inc., which if approved would establish Comcast as by far the dominant provider of broadband in the U.S., serving 30 million households" I wonder how soon until ISPs' tiered pricing packages will become indistinguishable from those for cable TV, with grouped together services that vary not just in throughput or quality guarantees, but in what sites you can reach at each service level, or which sports teams are subject to a local blackout order.
sfcrazy writes "Amazon is all set to get Apple and Roku some serious competition with its own 'web-TV' or set-top box. According to reports, Amazon will be using Google's Android to build the box. Amazon already has a huge library of content (from Amazon Prime) which it can push to the living room through the box. Amazon, like Netflix, is also investing heavily in producing content to their own set-box. Amazon has also been hiring game developers and it won't be surprising if the company also dabbles into gaming." And while it may be only a rumor, the idea's got some reasonable legs: besides the content on Prime, Amazon has been making media-centric Android devices for a few years with its Kindle Fire line.
Zothecula writes "The Oculus Rift has carved out a sizable reputation for itself among gamers, but virtual reality has many applications beyond playing video games. Now one production studio is preparing to release the first movie shot specifically to be watched through the VR headset. The upcoming film, called Zero Point, will focus on the history and development of virtual reality technology, while allowing viewers the freedom to look around each scene as the movie progresses."
First time accepted submitter EwanPalmer writes "YouTube is threatening to remove the account of a scientist who made a series of videos debunking claims made in an AIDS denialist movie over copyright infringement disagreement. Myles Power is claiming the producers of controversial 2009 documentary House of Numbers are attempting to censor him by submitting bogus DMCA claims against him. He says his movies do not breach copyright laws because his films are educational and therefore fair use. The 'AIDS denialist' documentary makers say they instead amounted to 'propaganda.'"
"The Fat Man" George Sanger has composed the music to hundreds of computer and video games since the 80's and remains one of the most influential people in game audio. Some of his most famous tunes can be heard in Maniac Mansion, Wing Commander, and Tux Racer. Team Fat, a band that includes fellow video game music composers, creates music, sound effects, and voice work for games, television, and films. George has agreed to give us a bit of his time and answer any questions you might have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
StartsWithABang writes "So unless you've been living under a rock, you're aware that it's only a few short weeks until the premiere of the new Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey starring Neil de Grasse Tyson. Many have hopes (and fears) concerning what the series will (and won't) be, but this perspective — on what a 'successful' Cosmos series could mean for the future of humanity — is worth a read for anyone who hasn't given up on dreaming big."
An anonymous reader writes "Shubham Banerjee, a seventh grader in California, has developed a braille printer made from a $350 Lego Mindstorms EV3 kit and some simple hardware. He calls the science fair project the Braigo. 'The Braigo's controller is set up to scroll through the alphabet. You choose a letter and it prints it out with tactile bumps on a roll of calculator paper. The print head is actually a thumbtack, which Banerjee settled on after also testing a small drill bit and a mechanical pencil. The first prototype isn't terribly fast, but it proves the concept works. Banerjee is working on improvements that will allow it to print full pages of text.'"
First time accepted submitter TBNZee writes "Mainstream TV has has for a long time under-served the sci-fi loving viewers, but with declining production costs there seem to be two potential sources of alternative production/distribution: digital content (e.g. Netflix, Hulu) and crowd funded projects. There's still not a lot of sci-fi shows that are being produced by the major streaming services, but we'll probably see more with the success of Hulu's exclusive U.S. distribution of Misfits or Netflix's success with Buffy and Doctor Who. On the other hand, you have many enthusiastic upstarts on Kickstarter that look novel and engaging, while having a surprisingly professional look to them. Which do you think will ultimately be more successful? Will either be able to replace network content?"
An anonymous reader writes "This NY Times articles makes the case that Comcast's planned acquisition of Time Warner Cable is part of a strategy to fight back against the millions of people ditching cable subscriptions. 'The acquisition rests on the assumption that as people cut back on their monthly TV plans, the cable lines coming into their homes won't lose their value.' The idea is that switching away from cable TV will simply make consumers more beholden to their internet connections, and removing (i.e. acquiring) the competition will let Comcast raise rates without losing customers. The article concludes, 'The steady price increases in broadband rates cast a pall over any cord cutter's dreams. It's possible that you might still save money now by cutting off your cable. But if you plan to watch a lot of TV over the Internet, don't expect to save money forever.'"
Lucas123 writes "Music streaming services, forced to give from 60% to 70% of their revenue to the record industry, will never be profitable in their current state, a new report shows. Unless the services can monetize their user base by entering new product and service categories, or they can sell themselves to a larger company that can sustain them, they're doomed to fail. One method that subscription services might be able to use to achieve profitability is to up sell mobile deals or bundles to subscribers. For example, a select package of mobile services would be sold through the music service provider, the report from Generator Research suggested. 'Services like iTunes Match and Google and Amazon are already heading in this direction,' the report states. Another possibility would be for a larger company to purchase the music service or for the service to begin offering sanitized user behavioral data to advertisers, who could then better target a customer base."
An anonymous reader writes "Rick Webb has an article suggesting we're in the nascent stages of transforming to a post-scarcity economy — one in which we are 'no longer constrained by scarcity of materials—food, energy, shelter, etc.' While we aren't there yet, job automation continues to rise and the problem of distributing necessities gets closer to being solved every day. Webb wondered how to describe a society's progress as it made the transition from scarcity to post-scarcity — and it brought him to Star Trek. Quoting: 'I believe the Federation is a proto-post scarcity society evolved from democratic capitalism. It is, essentially, European socialist capitalism vastly expanded to the point where no one has to work unless they want to. It is massively productive and efficient, allowing for the effective decoupling of labor and salary for the vast majority (but not all) of economic activity. The amount of welfare benefits available to all citizens is in excess of the needs of the citizens. Therefore, money is irrelevant to the lives of the citizenry, whether it exists or not. Resources are still accounted for and allocated in some manner, presumably by the amount of energy required to produce them (say Joules). And they are indeed credited to and debited from each citizen's "account." However, the average citizen doesn't even notice it, though the government does, and again, it is not measured in currency units—definitely not Federation Credits.'"
An anonymous reader writes "My boyhood hero, actor Leonard Nimoy, has developed lung disease. To those still smoking and in the grips of marketing induced denial, he says 'quit now.' Small acts of goodness make the universe a better place."
Monoman writes "The Washington Post reports, 'The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics start tonight. But if you're among the 9 percent of U.S. households who have broadband but don't subscribe to paid television, it will be nearly impossible to (legally) watch the games online this year. ... That's because while NBC is streaming all of the events live online, full access to the livestream will only be available to paying cable subscribers. And thanks to a $4.38 billion exclusive deal NBC struck with the International Olympics Committee (IOC) in 2011 for the privilege of broadcasting the Olympic games in the U.S. through 2020, cord-cutters don't have a lot of options.' Is this a money play by Comcast/NBC to get some subscribers back? Should the FCC step in and require NBC to at least provide a stream of their OTA content?"
First time accepted submitter time_lords_almanac writes "A Canadian band has sent an invoice to the U.S. Department of Defense after learning that its music was used without permission in 'interrogations' of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. The members of Skinny Puppy, who specialize in electronic music, were originally going to make the invoice the cover of their next album until they discovered they could bring legal action against the department. They were also none to happy to learn the purpose their music was being employed for, let alone illegally. The amount of compensation requested? $666,000, of course."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "USA Today reports that Arthur Chu, an insurance compliance analyst and aspiring actor, has won $102,800 in four Jeopardy! appearances using a strategy — jumping around the board instead of running categories straight down, betting odd amounts on Daily Doubles and doing a final wager to tie — that has fans calling him a 'villain' and 'smug.' It's Arthur's in-game strategy of searching for the Daily Double that has made him such a target. Typically, contestants choose a single category and progressively move from the lowest amount up to the highest, giving viewers an easy-to-understand escalation of difficulty. But Arthur has his sights solely set on finding those hidden Daily Doubles, which are usually located on the three highest-paying rungs in the categories (the category itself is random). That means, rather than building up in difficulty, he begins at the most difficult questions. Once the two most difficult questions have been taken off the board in one column, he quickly jumps to another category. It's a grating experience for the viewer, who isn't given enough to time to get in a rhythm or fully comprehend the new subject area. 'The more unpredictable you are, the more you put your opponents off-balance, the longer you can keep an initial advantage,' says Chu. 'It greatly increases your chance of winning the game if you can pull it off, and I saw no reason not to do it.' Another contra-intuitive move Chu has made is playing for a tie rather than to win in 'Final Jeopardy' because that allows you advance to the next round which is the most important thing, not the amount of money you win in one game. 'In terms of influence on the game,Arthur looks like a trendsetter of things to come,' says Eric Levenson. 'Hopefully that has more to do with his game theory than with his aggressive button-pressing.'"
First time accepted submitter Neelix21 writes "Last week a Dutch court decided that the blockade of the Pirate Bay website was ineffective and disproportionate. The academic study that measured this effect has now been published: 'This paper studies the effectiveness of this approach towards online copyright enforcement, using both a consumer survey and a newly developed non-infringing technology for BitTorrent monitoring. While a small group of respondents download less from illegal sources or claim to have stopped doing so, no impact is found on the percentage of the Dutch population downloading from illegal sources.' The torrent monitoring technique also shows that if you are downloading a public torrent, anyone can find out." Happily, the linked paper is not paywalled.
sfcrazy writes "Google has finally released the SDK for Chromecast which will allow 3rd party developers to stream content to the living room via Chromecast. When Google broke Koushik Dutta's (CyanogenMOD fame) app, it was met with criticism. However it was assumed that Google was positioning Chromecast as a streaming device and was focusing on getting content providers for it before it engaged developers to add support for their apps. Now that Google has succeeded in getting a long list of content providers to bring their content on Chromecast, the company is opening the device to developers."
dotarray writes "Valve continues in its quest for world domination with the announcement of Steam Music, soon to be a part of SteamOS, Big Picture and — eventually — the desktop Steam client. Promising a way for you to 'Listen to your music collection while you play games', beta signups (of a kind) are open now."
The MOSS modular robot system is sort of like LEGO Mindstorms, in that you assemble small blocks to make custom robots and other items. But it has some interesting tricks of its own, as product demonstrator John Moyes shows Timothy Lord at CES 2014. The MOSS kits include lots of little metal balls, so they carry a warning that says MOSS kits are suitable for ages 8 and up, while the company's older Cubelets product, which doesn't have the little balls, is supposed to be okay for ages 4 and up. There is no upper age limit specified for either product, so you're probably safe if you want to buy (and can *afford* to buy) any of these interesting toys.
An anonymous reader writes "The climate of Middle Earth has recently been under the spotlight, with the current and future climate of Middle Earth simulated using the HadCM3L General Circulation Model. However, to the best of our knowledge, there has been little work investigating the historical carbon emissions of Middle Earth. Specifically, what impact has the demise of dragons had on carbon emissions? To shed some light on this question, we start by considering the carbon footprint of the antagonist, Smaug." Smaug is surprisingly environmentally friendly.
An anonymous reader writes "Rhawn Joseph, a self-described astrobiologist involved with the infamous Journal of Cosmology, is suing NASA, demanding 100 high-resolution photos and 24 micrographs be taken of the 'donut' rock that recently appeared in front of the Opportunity rover on Mars, on the basis that it is a living organism. The remarkable full text of the complaint, which cites NASA's mineralogical analysis of the rock as evidence against it being a rock, is available to read at Popular Science." Really, the lawsuit is worth a read.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Jon Healey writes in the LA Times that a new lawsuit against the Gawker Media site Defamer for linking to an infringing copy of an unreleased screenplay should send chills down the spines of every reporter who writes about copyright issues. Tarantino had kept the script for his ensemble western The Hateful Eight unpublished, but someone obtained a copy and posted it online. In its piece, Defamer quoted only a brief excerpt and a short summary published earlier that day by the Wrap. But it also included two links to the leaked screenplay on a file-sharing site called AnonFiles. In a complaint filed in federal court in Los Angeles, Tarantino's lawyers say they repeatedly asked Gawker Media to remove the links, to no avail. John Cook, Gawker's editor, responded with a post that rebuts the complaint's most damaging allegations, saying Defamer had no involvement whatsoever in the leak or the script's posting online. Cook also quotes Tarantino's comments last week to Deadline Hollywood, in which the filmmaker said he likes having his work online for people to read and review. 'Reporters often assume that providing links to items of public interest is perfectly aboveboard, even if the items themselves aren't. If this case goes to trial, it could help clarify what links simply can't be published legally, regardless of the news value,' writes Healey. 'I'm not arguing that what Gawker did was legal — that's a judge's decision. I'm just saying that there's a journalistic reason for Gawker to do what it did, and those of us who write about copyrights struggle often with the question of how to report what seems newsworthy without crossing a line that's drawn case by case.'"
Space MMO EVE Online has been providing stories of corporate espionage and massive space battles for years. A battle began yesterday that's the biggest one in the game's 10-year history. The main battle itself involved over 2,200 players in a single star system (screenshot, animated picture). The groups on each side of the fight tried to restrict the numbers somewhat in order to maintain server stability, so the battle ended up sprawling across multiple other systems as well. Now, EVE allows players to buy a month of subscription time as an in-game item, which players can then use or trade. This allows a direct conversion from in-game currency to real money, and provides a benchmark for estimating the real-world value of in-game losses. Over 70 of the game's biggest and most expensive ships, the Titans, were destroyed. Individual Titans can be worth upwards of 200 billion ISK, which is worth around $5,000. Losses for the Titans alone for this massive battle are estimated at $200,000 - $300,000. Hundreds upon hundreds of other ships were destroyed as well. How did the battle start? Somebody didn't pay rent and lost control of their system.
theodp writes "Weighing in for the WSJ on Spike Jonze's Oscar-nominated, futuristic love story Her (parodies), Stephen Wolfram — whose Wolfram Alpha drives the AI-like component of Siri — thinks that an operating system like Samantha as depicted in the film isn't that far off. In Her, OS Samantha and BeautifulHandwrittenLetters.com employee Theodore Twombly have a relationship that appears to exhibit all the elements of a typical romance, despite the OS's lack of a physical body. They talk late into the night, relax on the beach, and even double date with friends. Both Wolfram and Google director of research Peter Norvig (who hadn't yet seen the film) believe this type of emotional attachment isn't a big hurdle to clear. 'People are only too keen, I think, to anthropomorphize things around them,' explained Wolfram. 'Whether they're stuffed animals, Tamagotchi, things in videogames, whatever else.' By the way, why no supporting actor nomination for Jonze's portrayal of foul-mouthed animated video game character Alien Child?"
enharmonix writes "I have a big decision to make. I am probably going to buy a laptop that I will primarily use for music. I would prefer an OEM distro so I don't need to install the OS myself (not that I mind), but I have no preference between open- and closed-source software as an end-user; I just care about the quality of the product. There are two applications that I absolutely must have: 1) a standard notation transcription program with quality auditioning (i.e., playback with quality sound fonts or something similar, better than your standard MIDI patches) that can also accept recorded audio in lieu of MIDI playback, and 2) a capable synthesizer (the more options, the better). If there's software out there that does both 1 and 2 in the same app, that's even better. I've played with some of Ubuntu's offerings for music a few years ago and some are very good, though not all of them are self-explanatory and the last time I checked, none of them really met my needs. I am not so worried about number 2 because I think I could pretty easily develop my own in .NET/Mono, which I think would be a fun project (which would be open source, of course). I am a Gnome fan so if I go with Linux, I will almost certainly go with standard Ubuntu over Kubuntu, but Gnome seems to rule out Rosegarden which was the best FOSS transcription software out there the last time I checked. The other solution I've thought of is to just shell out the $600 for Finale, which I'm more than willing to do, but I'm not so sure I want Windows 8 and I'm just not sure I can afford to go with a Mac on top of the $600 for Finale. I don't intend to put more than one OS on my laptop, either. Any slashdotters out there dabble in composing/recording, using MIDI, sound fonts, recorded audio, and/or synthesizers? What setup of hardware/OS/software works for you? Can FOSS music software compete with their pricier closed source competitors?" The KXStudio apps installed over Debian or Ubuntu tend to be pretty nice (better session handling that gladish provides at least).
MojoKid writes "There's no disputing that Bill Gates is blessed with a brilliant mind. Sure, he dropped out of Harvard College, but he got accepted into the elite institution of higher learning in the first place. Leading into his college career, Gates scored 1,590 out of 1,600 on the SAT. The rest is history — he went on to co-found Microsoft, built a net worth that's in the billions ($76.8 billion at last count), and now spends his time on his philanthropic efforts. Regardless, it took 23-year-old Magnus Carlsen, a "grandmaster" Chess player since the age of 13 and new world Chess champion, just 71 seconds to defeat Gates in a friendly game of Chess on a Norwegian television show. It takes longer to heat up a cup of water in the microwave."